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On cue: A’s leaders in Las Vegas today

When negotiations for a new Howard Terminal development slow down, the Oakland A’s ownership has a familiar card to play: head to Las Vegas and hint at a future move. Guess who’s in Sin City today?

As we’ve repeatedly pointed out, big projects take big time; there is an ebb and flow to multi-billion developments, especially when you’re talking about a $12-billion project. Things appear to be in a lull right now, as the city of Oakland works to put its finances in order and the A’s work to come up with a community benefits agreement and lease that works for all involved. The A’s are proposing a downtown Howard Terminal waterfront development featuring $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the team’s home. The development would also include 3,000 units of housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, 18 acres of parkland and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. It would represent a massive makeover of the Oakland waterfront, transforming a industrial site into a mixed-use development.

Still, MLB is showing a little impatience with the slow state of negotiations, and it seems like every time negotiations with Oakland slow down, a trip to Las Vegas to show Oakland the team has a viable alternative.

But how viable? Despite some really bad reporting, things have not gone any better in dealing with Las Vegas. After a much-ballyhooed search for potential ballpark sites, the team settled on Phil Ruffin’s Festival Grounds site on the northern end of the Strip and the current site of the Tropicana on the south end of the Strip. Both sides have challenges, with little reported contact with casino mogul Ruffin. 

Read between the lines of this Las Vegas Review-Journal article and you will likely conclude there’s little going right now in Vegas as well. A’s owner John Fisher and team president Dave Kaval are in town to meet with resort owners on the northern end of the Strip, but conspicuous by their absence on the public agenda are Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has come out against public funding of a new ballpark, and Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who has consistently said there’s no public appetite for public funding for an A’s ballpark. If you’re handicapping an A’s move to Vegas, Naft is the politician to watch: he’s a power player in Clark County politics, we’re told by Vegas insiders, and there’s little chance we’ll see public money for an A’s ballpark without his support.

But the end game for today’s visit isn’t to persuade Lombardo or Naft to change their positions; it’s to show Oakland officials that alternatives are in place.

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